A strong earthquake struck Leyte in the Philippines on Thursday afternoon, and there were initial reports of collapsed infrastructure, cracked roads, and landslides that resulted in the death of at least two people – one in Ormoc City and another in Kananga town – and the injury of scores of others throughout the province.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Deputy Director Bartolome Bautista said the quake hit at 4:03 p.m. and registered at magnitude 6.5 with its epicenter located eight kilometers southwest of Jaro, Leyte, and had a depth of two kilometers.

The tremor was felt at Intensity 5 in Tacloban City, Palo, Leyte, and Cebu City, Intensity 4 in Tolosa, Leyte, Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Burgos, Surigao del Norte, Intensity 3 in Bogo City, Cebu, Calatrava, Negros Occidental, Intensity 2 in Libjo, San Jose, Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands, and Intensity 1 in Roxas City, La Carlota City; Negros Occidental.

The quake cut power in the whole of Leyte and parts of Cebu and Bohol, and employees at the Iloilo City Hall were evacuated.

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez confirmed one death – 18-year-old Rizza Rosales – in the mountain village of Cabaon-an in his city which was hit by a landslide during the tremor. Her five-month-old child was rescued.

Gomez also said there 40 casualties as a result of the earthquake in Ormoc, but most were trauma victims.

Gomez said cracks were seen in three major highways, but all roads in and out of the city were passable.

He added that Ormoc airport was damaged, resulting in the cancellation of all flights.

Asked how strong the quake was felt in Ormoc, Gomez said: “Naisip ko, baka katapusan ko na. Malakas talaga; siguro tumagal din ng mga 15 seconds (I thought to myself, this might be my end. It was really strong; perhaps it lasted 15 seconds).”

He ordered the suspension of classes and work and convened his disaster response and management council even as the city was hit by an outage.

Rescuers were rushing to the town of Kananga where a three-story commercial building collapsed as the tremor struck Leyte, town mayor Rowena Codilla told DZBB radio.

“We were able to retrieve one dead and one injured,” Mayor Codilla said.

The rescue is hampered by aftershocks that continued to rock the area and lack of proper equipment, she said.

Kananga Vice Mayor Elmer Codilla said rescuers pulled out six people from the collapsed building.

“There are still more people inside, maybe more than five. The rescue operation is ongoing,” he added.

Two of those trapped managed to send text messages seeking help, the vice mayor said.

Officials retrieved one dead body while six people were rescued without injuries, Vice Mayor Codilla said.

Leyte Governor Dominico Petilla said rescue personnel, ambulances and heavy equipment have been sent to the mountainous town of about 50,000 people.

“They’re still trying to pull out the injured,” Petilla told CNN Philippines television.

The 10-year-old building housed a small hotel upstairs and shops on the ground floor, officials said.

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SOURCE: Mars Mosqueda and Francis Wakefield 
Manila Bulletin